World Breastfeeding Week 2015: My breastfeeding experience - the first few days

I always intended to breastfeed Quinn before she was born, despite never feeding her brother when he was born five years ago.
I never had a particular reason for choosing not to breastfeed Seb, I just felt that it wasn't for me. I didn't spend any time around other people with babies, so breastfeeding in particular was an alien concept, something I knew nothing about. Despite appreciating that it was a natural human function, I couldn't understand why someone would opt to breastfeed, when formula feeding seemed so much more liberating.
This time around however, a number of factors have come in to play to influence my decision to breastfeed Quinn.

Possibly a little naively though I just assumed throughout my pregnancy that breastfeeding would come naturally to me and my baby. I believed that I'd just put the baby near my nipples and it would latch on and I'd sit there with it sucking away until it was done.
I read plenty of accounts which described breastfeeding as a learned skill. I knew plenty of people who'd tried to breastfeed but it hadn't worked out for them for a number of reasons. I was aware that there were entire books written about how to breastfeed, that there were groups set up to support breastfeeding women, and that there were a number of things you could buy to make breastfeeding easier. I just didn't think that would be me, I'd already decided that I'd be some sort of natural breastfeeding pro, who, in true Earth Mother fashion, would take out a boob at any given moment and painlessly feed her baby.
Turns out I was well wrong.
Firstly, due to the speed at which and nature in which Quinn was born, she was reluctant to feed at first. It probably didn't help that I had a (very well meaning) midwife telling me that if my baby would feed it would encourage the delivery of my placenta (if you read Quinn's birth story - here - you'll know that my placenta was very stubborn to budge). I felt vaguely pressured to do something about the fact that Quinn only wanted to snuggle and sleep. As it was, she didn't feed until everyone had gone and I was sat in my living room with my doula and a hot cup of tea - I doubt it's any coincidence that once I was relaxed and didn't feel as though anyone were waiting for me to succeed, we both managed to give breastfeeding a go.

The first time that Quinn fed we came up against two problems; firstly - it hurt like Hell, secondly - she would only feed on the right breast.
I knew a lot of people who'd found breastfeeding uncomfortable on account of their baby suffering a tongue-tie, so as soon as I realised that breastfeeding was genuinely really painful, I checked Quinn's tongue and low and behold - I found quite a prominent posterior tongue-tie.
My midwife came back to visit us that afternoon and I asked her to look at Quinn's tongue and she agreed with my diagnosis, but suggested that as Quinn was feeding, we'd probably struggle to get a referral for treatment. That night, less than 24 hours after she was born, and after only a couple of feeds, my right nipple - the only one that she was interested in - was bleeding. This was not the plan.
Thankfully, my doula has a close friend who's a breastfeeding counsellor, and she was happy to visit me and Quinn at home to see whether she could help us to have a better time feeding. I can't thank her enough, not just for sitting with me to check my positioning, but for getting the wheels in motion to treat Quinn's tongue-tie. She put me in touch with a clinic that might be able to refer me to a doctor. She gave me loads of advice to get by and continue breastfeeding, and also reassured me that lots of the problems I was facing, which made me feel pretty helpless and rubbish, were experienced by lots of women and their babies.
After a couple of days of really painful feeding I bought nipple shields to try to allow myself to heal. I'm still using these now and even though they weren't an immediate solution, over the space of the last week, they've given me enough protection for the cuts on my nipples to heal. I used a mixture of breast milk and coconut oil to treat my sore nipples and this seems to have worked - it certainly made an effective alternative to creams and lotions. Unfortunately, feeding is still painful.
Quinn's tongue-tie means that she can not really move her tongue - which would be kind of key to successful breastfeeding. Instead, she's developed her own technique, which is working really well for her (she's feeding like a trooper) - a technique which involves using her gums to stretch and gnaw on the ends of my nipples to get milk... it's pretty horrible. I'm no longer bleeding, which is a result, but over a week in, I'm still needing to make an effort to breathe through the pain of her attempting to latch on.
The greatest success though has been Quinn's decision to feed from both breasts happily. I don't know what caused the switch, it will pretty much be put down to being "one of those things", and something that she "grew out of". It certainly made life easier and to my relief - my supply on the left side hasn't been effected - so we're now swapping merrily between the two!
This week we took Quinn to Canterbury, to the clinic that the breastfeeding  counsellor had recommended on day 1. Quinn's tongue-tie had been further confirmed at her paediatric checkup, but the paediatrician had been reluctant to agree that treatment would be appropriate. At the clinic however, a lactation consultant was more than happy to refer Quinn to have her tongue-tie treated, on the grounds of the damage that her feeding is causing me. It's a weight off of my shoulders knowing that there's a light at the end of the tunnel and that eventually I should be able to really enjoy feeding my daughter.
At the moment I get a great sense of accomplishment and joy from knowing that I am nourishing and allowing her to thrive; that in itself is enjoyable. I just want to be able to put her on to a boob without wincing and wanting to cry!
We're now expecting an appointment for this week at a private hospital just over an hour from home to have Quinn's tongue-tie snipped. I feel guilty that she'll have to undergo the surgery because of the pain that breastfeeding is causing me, especially when she's feeding so well in her own way, but I know that it will mean I go on to feed her for longer - which has to be a good thing, especially for her.
I was foolish to think that breastfeeding would just happen. I am so glad that I a) made the decision to breastfeed Quinn though and b) have persevered and made it in to the second week without deciding to stop breastfeeding on account of the pain.
I wanted to share our experience to encourage others to realise that breastfeeding doesn't always happen just because you believe that it will, but that there are lights at the end of tunnels if you're proactive about seeking them out.
I'm really looking forward to sharing the next part of our breastfeeding story in a couple of weeks, when hopefully I'll be feeling a lot more positive about it!

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